Hope for disabled passengers as Pontefract Monkhill Station may get step-free access at last

At the front: Damon Nicholson and his cousin Stephanie Downes are unable to use one of Pontefract Monkhill's platforms because there is no step-free access. 'At the back from left to right are Damon's sister Mary Nicholson, Stephanie's sister-in-law Susan Smith, Damon's father's partner Karina Nicholson and Pontefract councillors Clive Tennant, Pat Garbutt and David Jones.
At the front: Damon Nicholson and his cousin Stephanie Downes are unable to use one of Pontefract Monkhill's platforms because there is no step-free access. 'At the back from left to right are Damon's sister Mary Nicholson, Stephanie's sister-in-law Susan Smith, Damon's father's partner Karina Nicholson and Pontefract councillors Clive Tennant, Pat Garbutt and David Jones.

Adequate facilities for disabled passengers may finally be built at one of the district's railway stations

Pontefract Monkhill Station has no step free access from its Platform 1, resulting in hassle and difficulty for wheelchair users and pram-pushing parents.

Rail bosses have fielded years of criticism about the problem, with one disabled passenger saying this year that the lack of facilities left him feeling "like a second class citizen", as he's forced to make a seven-mile round trip to avoid the station every time he travels between his Pontefract home and Leeds.

Now, Wakefield Council has bid for £1m worth of cash from the Department of Transport to install a lift at Monkhill.

If successful, the local authority says it will put up an extra £1.2m themselves to help fund the venture.

Coun Matthew Morley, the council's portfolio holder for transport, said: "Currently, Monkhill Station is extremely difficult for our disabled residents to access, with many having to travel to Castleford to get a train. This is simply not good enough in 2019.

"This funding and our £1.2million contribution would enable a lift to be added to the existing footbridge, which will be refurbished, allowing much easier access.

"We hope the bid is successful and that we can help improve the lives of our disabled residents and visitors."

However, passengers will have to wait to discover whether or not the bid has been successful, with a decision on that not due until the spring of next year.

Among those affected by the problems is local man Damon Nicholson, whose case was raised by Coun Morley and Pontefract North councillor Lorna Malkin earlier this year.

Mr Nicholson, who is in his early 30s, typically bypasses Monkhill when travelling home from Leeds, because there is no way he can leave the station in his wheelchair.

Instead, he travels onto Knottingley and then gets a train back in the opposite direction, so he can get off at Platform 2, which he can exit the station from because there's a ramp.

Speaking in February, he said: "This has been going on ever since I started using the trains, which was when I was 18.

"I feel like a second class citizen every time I use the train and it just really upsets me.

"I've paid for my disabled railcard and I always pay my fares on time, and I don't know what I'm getting for my money.

"It's very frustrating having to travel separately from my friends."

Network Rail, who are responsible for the station, has previously said it is committed to improving access to platforms.

Local Democracy Reporting Service